The Yorkton Terriers are going to see even more of their regional rivals next season in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s new three-division format.
The Terriers’ new division consists of the Melville Millionaires, Weyburn Redwings, and Estevan Bruins. Yorkton will square off against these three clubs more often next year, and in doing so, not meet with other clubs as much.
“The rivals between us and teams like Melville could grow even more in the new format,” said Terriers general manager Don Chesney. “But battles against teams like the Kindersley Klippers might not be as heated because we won’t see them as often.”
Under the current format, Yorkton sits in the Sherwood Division with the Millionaires, Redwings, Bruins, Kindersley Klippers, and Notre Dame Hounds. The Humboldt Broncos, Flon Flon Bombers, Battlefords North Stars, La Ronge Ice Wolves, Nipawin Hawks, and Melfort Mustangs make up the North Division.
The Hounds and Klippers join the Broncos and North Stars in the second division.
The final four-team division consists of the Bombers, Ice Wolves, Mustangs, and Hawks.
The SJHL chose to change the format in an attempt to cut down travel costs for teams. The league felt Northern teams such as the La Ronge Ice Wolves and Southern teams such as the Estevan Bruins were spending too much money on fuel, hotel rooms, etc.
“Some teams were complaining about the travel costs,” said Chesney. “They are bad for everyone, but for teams down south or really north, they are even worse. The new format is designed to cut down the travel costs and help teams out a bit financially.”
The SJHL also changed their playoff format. The teams with the most points in each division at the end of the regular season will be crowned division winners. Those teams will be seeded first, second, and third overall in the standings, based on total points.
The teams that finished second in each division will be seeded fourth, fifth and sixth, based on the most points.
The four teams with the next-highest point totals will be seeded seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th. The seventh seed will play the 10th and the eighth will play the ninth in best-of-five wild-card series.
The winning teams in the wild-card series will assume the seventh and eighth seeds, based on points, for the next round of the playoffs.
The SJHL Governors believe the new post-season format will create more interest in regular-season play and will create some interesting series battles during the playoffs.
For the Terriers, this new playoff outlook opens up the possibility of them meeting the Millionaires and other division rivals in the league final.
“The playoff format is quite interesting,” said Chesney. “It makes it that we could end up playing the Millionaires in the finals. And other rival clubs like the Melfort Mustangs and Humboldt Broncos could end up playing in the final against each other. It also makes it that you could end up playing a team that you’re not that familiar with in the first round rather than a division rival.”
As the Terriers general manager goes on to state, time will only tell whether this was the right move for the league.
“We’ll try this new format out and see how it goes,” said Chesney. “It might be better, it might not be. Time will only tell that.”